I wrote earlier this summer about how the hot weather wasn't going to hurt the grapes and at the time I believed this had the potential of being a big production year. WOW! What a difference a few weeks make. The continued extremely hot weather that almost of all of California is experiencing could not have come at a worse time.
While many of the grapes for white wine have already been picked and most Pinot Noir, the reds are the big risk now. The grapes have already turned and are showing that deep color so the next step is to wait for the sugar level of the grapes to be just right for picking. The increased heat speeds up that process. When it’s hot for this long, it begins to ripen the sugars very quickly and doesn't allow the acids, tannins and flavor profiles to really develop. The sugar gets too high and the grapes must be picked. Right now we are talking Merlot grapes. So the picking has begun which signals the start of the red grape harvest! Mostly overnight picking now because they like the grapes to be around 65 degrees when they are picked. With daytime highs well into the 100s, it takes a few hours for the grapes to cool down. Also, it is too hot for the workers to be working other than overnight. So the lights come on around midnight and the workers start their jobs!
The valley’s most well known grape, Cabernet Sauvignon, is still several weeks out from harvest, thats good news in part because the Cabernet copes well with higher temperatures and heat!
Let's hope the break in heat that is coming after Labor Day is here to stay! Bless the workers who work overnight, work in the heat and do so much to put that great wine on our tables! And while it may not be a record production this year, the early rains and early bud burst is mother natures way of helping the grapes a little bit to better cope with the current heat wave!
Always Drink Responsibly!